Olive oil is a quintessential ingredient of Mediterranean cuisine, among other features, sets it apart from other eating patterns.
Throughout history, olive oil has played important religious, dietary and medicinal roles. Some of the earliest references to edible olive were found in Syria, fragments of clay tablets and ancient documents that were probably compiled during the early Bronze Age.
Several sources of evidence associate olive oil consumption with reduced morbidity and lower incidence of coronary artery disease, neurodegenerative disease and cancer.
There is no one right way to consume olive oil, but people are increasingly drinking it to get its maximum nutritional benefits.
In this article, we explain how drinking olive oil every day benefices your health.
- You Will Get Sufficient Amounts of Healthy Fats
Research advances on the relationships between food consumption and cardiovascular events recommend certain dietary behavior changes to improve nutritional quality and prevent cardiovascular disease and breast cancer, most notably reducing total fat intake and replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat.
Another line of dietary advice emphasizes a total fat and saturated fat intakes of 20-35% and 10% of total calories from fat respectively (1).
Olive oil is, among other natural plants, one of the strongest sources of monounsaturated healthy fatty acids (e.g. oleic acid), and drinking it can help reduce the ratio of serum total to HDL cholesterol, thus lowering one of the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease (2).
Drinking two tablespoons of olive oil (28 ml) could help you meet half of the dietary reference intake for healthy fat.
- You Will Maximize Your Heart Health
It has been shown that olive oil consumption lowers the incidence of several chronic diseases, including breast and digestive system cancers and cardiovascular disease.
These proven health benefits of olive oil are due to the polyphenols (e.g. hydroxytyrosol) it contains, which have been reported to modulate some of the manifold surrogate markers of cardiovascular disease.
One large-scale study of 40,622 Spanish participants aged 29-69 with a long-term follow-up of 13.4 years found that olive oil consumption amounted a 44% reduction in risk of overall mortality in comparison with non-consumers. For each gradual increase of 10 grams of olive oil intake, there was a 13% decrease in the risk of cardiovascular disease mortality (3).
Another study examined the association between high olive oil supplementation and the incidence of stroke in the elderly and found that intensive consumers had a 41% lower risk of stroke compared to those who never used it (4).
Since not all olive oil is created equal, you should make sure to drink fresh extra-virgin olive oil to maximize your heart health.
- You Will Prevent Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
Now, it is true that cohort studies on the link between olive oil consumption and type 2 diabetes mellitus are still in their infancy. But, adherence to diets rich in olive oil —like the Mediterranean diet— has been shown to have an inverse association with risk of type 2 diabetes (6).
According to a 2017 meta-analysis of the potential relationships between olive oil intake and type 2 diabetes, olive oil exerts numerous beneficial effects on human health, among which improved glucose metabolism and reduction in the incidence of diabetes mellitus (7).
Some researchers speculate that olive oil consumption promotes weight loss —obesity is one of the manifold risk factors for type 2 diabetes—, but further studies are needed to further elucidate how drinking olive oil may help lose weight.
In fine, the importance of olive oil as a cost-effective preventive dietary measure of type 2 diabetes is well-established.
- You Will Lower Your Risk of Developing Alzheimer’s Disease
Studies all over the world associate Mediterranean diet adherence and olive oil consumption with less risk of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and mild cognitive impairment.
To date, there is no known cure or treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, but scientific advances recommend certain dietary and behavioral measures to be undertaken in order to lower the incidence of cognitive decline.
For example, a recent study published in The Lancet Neurology Journal found that increased consumption of certain nutrients or food ingredients, most notably olive oil, prevents the decline of cognitive function and promotes overall brain health in the elderly (9).
Another animal study consisted of feeding a group of mice with daily chef extra virgin olive oil from Italy —due to its high concentration of polyphenols— for 6 months and reported an enhanced cognitive behavior and less Alzheimer disease neuropathology and cerebral amyloid angiopathy in the research subjects (10).
- You Will Relieve Constipation
Constipation refers to going 3 days or longer without having a bowel movement or having difficulties in passing them.
Drinking olive oil as a mineral oil helps soften stool and acts as a lubricant.
A 2015 study showed that daily consumption of olive oil or flaxseed oil exerts favorable effects in the treatment of constipation in hemodialysis patients (11).
An older study examined the incidence of constipation itself and found that most participants with more than 3 bowel movements a week had consumed large amounts of olive oil (12).
When you’re using olive oil to treat constipation, remember not to consume more than one tablespoon per day as high intakes may lead to diarrhea.
Also, make sure to incorporate fiber-rich foods into your diet to prevent further complications.